Protecting yourself and others from coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updated on

This advice is based on our medical staff and CDC guidelines about COVID-19. We update this site when new information is available. New information may also be available from the CDC.

Is this an emergency?

If you’re suffering from a life threatening condition, stop and call 911.

The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19

Stay home, save lives

  • Keep at least 6 feet from other people no matter where you are.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
  • Don’t go to public places unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Wear a mask or cloth face covering

  • Wear a mask when you go to public spaces like the grocery store, gas station, or work.
  • Wear a cloth face covering like a bandana, scarf, or home-sewn cloth mask if you can’t find a mask.
  • Use a cloth made from cotton or a cotton-blend.
  • Discard your disposable mask, or launder your face covering, every day.
  • Wear a mask or cloth face covering when you are in the same room as someone who is sick and they aren’t able to wear a mask.
  • Even when you are wearing a mask, keep at least 6 feet from other people.

Keep your hands clean

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer. Be sure to cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Wash your hands before eating or preparing food.

Keep your hands away from your face

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Be aware of what your hands touch. Disinfect after touching high-touch surfaces especially outside your home.

We know it’s harder than it seems, but try your best. Keeping your hands away from your face is a big way of not getting sick because the virus is transmitted through our eyes, nose, and mouth.

Cover your cough

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Use the inside of your elbow if you don’t have a tissue.
  • Throw used tissues in a lined trash bin.
  • Wash your hands immediately.
  • Wear a mask or face covering to protect yourself and others.

Keep surfaces clean

  • Surfaces like door handles, light switches, faucets, and keyboards can spread the virus because they are touched a lot.
  • Clean surfaces with detergent or soap and water and then disinfect them.
  • Disinfect any places that might have blood, stool or body fluids.
  • Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. 
  • Make sure the disinfectant is right for the surface.

You can make bleach to use at home by mixing 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) of bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Don’t share personal household items

  • Don’t share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home.
  • Wash these items carefully with soap and water after they’re used.

How to protect people if you have COVID-19

If you have mild signs of COVID-19

Is this an emergency?

If you’re suffering from a life threatening condition, stop and call 911.

Stay home until your symptoms go away.

  • Self isolate at home.
  • Wear a mask or face covering when you are around other people or pets, and if you go out in public.
  • If you have a medical appointment, contact your provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19.
  • Immediately contact your provider if you get sicker and let them know you may have COVID-19.

Mild symptoms of COVID-19 will last on average from 5 to 14 days, and sometimes longer if the symptoms are more serious.

Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

If you have a positive test result for COVID-19

Is this an emergency?

If you’re suffering from a life threatening condition, stop and call 911.

  • Isolate yourself at home until the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others is thought to be low or you have advice from your provider.
  • Immediately contact your provider if you get sicker and let them know you have COVID-19.

How to self isolate

  • As much as you can, stay in one specific room away from other people in your home.
  • Use a separate bathroom, if you can.
  • Cut down your contact with pets and animals as much as you can, like you would around other people.
  • Wear a mask or face covering when you are around other people or pets, and when you go out in public.
  • If you have a medical appointment, contact your provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19.

When to stop self isolating

Stay at home until your symptoms go away. This means

  • at least 3 days (72 hours) since recovery (your fever has gone away and you are not using fever-reducing medicine like acetaminophen (like Tylenol) and ibuprofen (like Advil)), and improvement in respiratory symptoms (like a cough; or shortness of breath) and
  • at least 6 days since symptoms of COVID-19 first appeared.

If you have a positive test result for COVID-19, stay at home until you have advice until from your provider.

Should you take supplements during COVID-19

Does taking vitamin C prevent COVID-19?

We don’t know.

There is no evidence that taking vitamin C will help prevent COVID-19.

While standard doses of vitamin C are generally harmless, high doses can cause a number of side effects, including nausea, cramps, and an increased risk of kidney stones.

Does taking elderberry help treat COVID-19?

We don’t know.

No supplements have been proven to be effective in preventing or treating COVID-19.

How COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person by people who have spent time close to each other. It can be spread by

  • breathing in droplets made by someone who has COVID-19 when they cough, sneeze, or speak, or when those droplets land in mouths or noses
  • touching your face with contaminated hands.

Someone who has COVID-19 without any signs of being sick also can spread the virus by talking and breathing close to others.

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person and enters our body through the nose, mouth, or eyes. This is most likely to occur between people who are spending time together in close contact with one another (within 6 feet). 

Respiratory droplets are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

COVID-19 is also spread by touching your face with contaminated hands. Hands can be contaminated by shaking hands with a person who has COVID-19 or touching something they recently touched.

Research now tells us that people can transmit the COVID-19 virus via aerosol (talking and breathing) without having any signs of illness.

Why social distancing is important

Social distancing is our best hope to slow the spread of COVID-19, and to free up our healthcare system to care for those who need it the most.

Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation but social solidarity for those who have a higher risk for serious medical conditions.

Some high-risk patients with COVID-19 will experience pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure, and in some cases, death. Anyone with COVID-19 could be a loved one or thousands of people we don’t know. Through social distancing, we’re all committing to support each other by making sacrifices for the greater good.

What contact tracing is and how contact tracing works

Health authorities around the world are using contact tracing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

It’s used to find out where people with COVID-19 have been and who they’ve been close to.

People who have been close to someone who has COVID-19 are more likely to get COVID-19. 

If we know who these people are, we can tell them how to protect themselves and others. This will help look after people who might have COVID-19 and help slow down COVID-19 spreading.

Contact tracing is normally done by interviewing people who have COVID-19. These interviews help find out where those people have been and who they may have been close to.

To help do contact tracing, public health and government officials are starting to use mobile apps. These apps can help by showing where people have been.

Using apps to help do contact tracing is complicated. They must

  • keep information private,
  • stop information being used without permission, and
  • stop information from being wrongly used.

You can learn more about contact tracing from the CDC.

Is it safe to travel on airplanes during COVID-19

Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. According to the CDC, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Avoid contact with animals if you have signs of COVID-19

Keep a safe distance from pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people.

How long it takes for symptoms of COVID-19 to show

It takes 2 to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 to show.

This means it may take up to 14 days after someone is infected before they develop symptoms. If you think you have been exposed and have completed self-quarantine for 14 days without developing symptoms, you would not be considered at risk of spreading the virus.

How long it takes to self-isolate and recover from COVID-19

If you have mild signs of COVID-19

Mild symptoms of COVID-19 will last on average from 5 to 14 days, and sometimes longer if the symptoms are more serious.

Stay at home until your symptoms have resolved.

If you have a positive test result for COVID-19

Isolate yourself at home until the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others is thought to be low.

Stay home from work until

  • at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications) and improvement in respiratory symptoms (like a cough or shortness of breath);
  • at least 6 days have passed since symptoms of COVID-19 first appeared; and
  • your doctor tells you it’s safe to return to work.

Is it safe to donate blood during COVID-19?

Yes, it’s safe to donate blood.

The FDA and the CDC released statements encouraging healthy individuals to donate blood if they can.

The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said, “You can still go out and give blood. We’re worried about potential blood shortages in the future.”